During the LID Conference in the late summer in Portland, Maine, one of the sessions on GSI maintenance was especially interesting. It was moderated by Jamie Houle, UNH stormwater Center, who spends a lot of time learning from the people that manage green stormwater infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. New stormwater permits are pushing us in ways that may make some people uncomfortable, he explained.
It’s so new—taking an integrated approach to non-point sources of pollution, he said. EPA is good at point source pollution, but non-point pollution sources are new. Jamie advocated for consistency and learning. We need to focus on doing the same thing every time and making corrections as we go, an adaptive approach, he explained. States are learning from and templating one another regionally through communication, he said.
To complement Jamie’s remarks, staff from the City of Dover, New Hampshire spoke–Bill Boulanger and Gretchen Young. Gretchen’s role is one of administration, while Bill focusses on making GSI work at the site level. His remarks during the session are a reminder for everyone who sees the potential of GSI for stormwater and its ecologically beneficial co-benefits: If city staff isn’t excited about it, GSI may not work. Staff are all too familiar with balancing declining municipal budgets and tasked with finding good workers
“I want maintenance-free for these things,” he began. Bill sees rain gardens as supersized catch basins.
“I am not a fan of plants, it adds maintenance to our staff when we don’t have the time to do it.” As a matter of fact, “If it involves a lot of maintenance, I don’t want to do it.” Bill showed a photo of a rain garden that had been cut back in the fall. It took two workers with a truck four hours to do that, he complained. The rain garden, planted with pollinator perennials and grasses looked like any number of rain gardens specified all over the US. The planting provides wildlife habitat and is aesthetically pleasing most of the year to those enjoying a natural, non-manicured look.
Bill wants turf. It’s easier to maintain, he says. The lawn/turf is mown every time the adjacent lawn is cut at the park. “I will take care of this one [rain garden] because I have to.” But he made it clear, “I want lawn.” It’s easier to instruct employees on what to do and it fits with their current maintenance schedule.
When it comes to rain gardens, he added further, “Even though they look nice, if the resident doesn’t take it over,” it becomes the city’s problem.
January 3, 2017 NewTerrain.